I didn’t know that Baltimore was called the “charm city.” I’ve always called it the city of sirens because that’s what you hear all night in your hotel room. You could take our experience at the recent Baltimore show and plunk it down at any major show and it would be the same story, a lack of fresh material. It is incredible that at a major show with several hundred dealers such an absence of material was so evident. When I speak of rare coins I am using that term interchangeably with fresh material because the same old coins that are in dealers cases are still there show after show. The same pattern of behavior became clear after speaking with several major dealers. They buy coins at auction or on the floor of a show, play the upgrade game and take their shots with the retail public and if the coin doesn’t sell it reappears in auction in a few months. The result is a lot of recycled material with some fresh coins smattered throughout. I even saw a few coins we sold in the past that were upgraded and now are in plus holders or a full point higher. Nice coins are always nice!
The other thing I noticed in Baltimore was a tremendous amount of circulated coins in PCGS holders. While I have always been a buyer of wholesome circulated type I was not able to buy more than a couple of coins because of what I saw in the holders. I don’t know if it is lack of experience or just what the market will accept but most of the coins I saw were cleaned to one degree or another making them unsuitable for my standards and our customers. This will hurt the circ. type market in the future considering many of these coins would have no graded a few years ago. On the other hand we had a coin I brought to the show that came back from PCGS the week before we left for the show. We submitted it in Baltimore and it upgraded a full point. I’m not sure if this means that the grading services are inconsistent or if you really feel that a coin is all there you have to stick with it until you get the grade you want.
Because it is well recognized that RCNH has a keen eye for quality, several times during the show people came to me with coins they had bought or were thinking of buying and wanted an opinion. I am always glad to help. In one case I saved a gentleman $20,000 because the coin he was thinking of buying had altered surfaces. When I got back to the office one of my associates told me he received a call from a past customer to log a “complaint.” He told us that RCNH ruined him because of the premium quality coins we had sold him in the past that he can no longer can buy coins from his local dealer.
Some of the coins on the floor that I was interested in buying were priced in some cases at multiples of our retail which surprised me. One dealer had coins in his case that I have been trying to buy for two years and he still will not come down to reality on his prices. I also priced two scarce three cent nickels for a client and they were quoted to me at four –five times grey sheet levels. The problem was that they were not overpriced but they are artificially underpriced on greysheet. When I experience what I did at the show and hear feedback from customers the same theme constantly presents itself, original quality coins are legitimately tough to find and bring good money no matter what the price sheets say.
A major wholesaler told me that he has seen some increased activity in the market and demand seems to be on the rise. Dealers are still somewhat cash strapped but when something comes on the market they need they quickly find the money to purchase it. One dealer bought $100,000 deal of gold coins the first day of the show because presumably the deal was fresh and he needed them for inventory.
Auctions were again very strong with a wonderful collection of early Massachusetts silver coins and late 18th early 19th century coins being sold. Prices were strong and the coins quickly disappeared from the market which means that the smart money are buying these coins for the long-term because they recognize the rarity and profit potential that high quality coins represent. Remember, not all high grade coins are great coins. I was looking at an MS-68 CAC coin in the auction for one of our clients and I would not consider buying it as an MS-67 and yet it was CAC’d. Always buy the coin, not the holder.
An officer in the Denver Coin Club sat down with me at our table. He told me that he interviewed one of the foremost luminaries in the coin industry. Out of the blue the interviewee said you should get to know Warren Mills, the percentage of his coins that CAC is very high. The Denver Club officer said he knows me but none-the-less, the referral to me was a surprise and appreciated.
I went up to another dealer that was acquiring a specific series of coins for an affluent customer. I sold him two pieces and he said I’ll take all you can get but “they don’t have to be Warren Mills quality, they can be commercially graded coins like most certified coins are.”
As always our numismatists are here to help and are eager to speak with you so please call if you have a question or a particular need.